Michael Randle

Michael Randle (born 1933 in England) is best known as a peace campaigner and peace researcher, one of the pioneers of nonviolent direct action in Britain, and also for his role in helping the Soviet spy George Blake escape from a British prison.


Michael Randle (second from left) with Bertrand Russell (centre) leading an anti-nuclear march in London, Feb 1961

Born in England in 1933, Michael Randle spent the years of the Second World War with relatives in Ireland. He has been active in the peace movement since registering as a conscientious objector to military service in 1951. He was a member of the Aldermaston March Committee which organised the first Aldermaston March against British nuclear weapons at Easter 1958; Chairman of the Direct Action Committee Against Nuclear War, 1958–61; Secretary of the Committee of 100, 1960–61; and a Council and Executive member of War Resisters' International, 1960–1988, chair from 1966–73. In 1959-60 he spent a year in Ghana, participating in the Sahara Protest Team against French atomic bomb tests in the Algerian Sahara and helping to organise a pan-African conference in Accra which took place in April 1960. In 1962 he was sentenced, along with five other members of the Committee of 100, to eighteen months' imprisonment for his part in organising nonviolent direct action at a USAF Wethersfield in Essex; it was while he was serving that sentence that his first son, Sean, was born. In October 1967 he was sentenced to twelve months' imprisonment for participating in an occupation of the Greek Embassy in London following the Colonels' coup in April of that year.

During his time in Wormwood Scrubs prison in 1962-3, he became friends with George Blake, the British MI6 agent condemned in 1961 to forty-two years imprisonment for passing information to the Soviet Union. His outrage at the “vicious” sentence imposed on Blake led him and two others, Pat Pottle and Séan Bourke, to free Blake in October 1966.[1][2][3][4][5][6][7][8] Blake then stayed at 'safe' houses around London which were mostly friends of Randle's and Pottle's before he was hidden in a secret compartment in a camper van and Michael Randle drove him to Eastern Europe, with Randle's children sitting on top of the seat that Blake was hidden underneath to put off any customs officers who might look into the van.[9] In June 1991 he and Pat Pottle stood trial at the Old Bailey for their part in the escape. They defended themselves in court, arguing that, while they in no way condoned Blake's espionage activities for either side, they were right to help him because the forty-two year sentence he received was inhuman and hypocritical. Despite a virtual direction from the judge to convict, the jury found them not guilty on all counts.

Michael Randle has taken a keen interest in developments in Eastern Europe. In 1956 he undertook a march from Vienna to Budapest with leaflets expressing support for Hungarian passive resistance to the Soviet occupation, though he was prevented from entering Hungary by Austrian border guards. In 1968 he jointly co-ordinated for War Resisters' International protests in Moscow, Budapest, Sofia and Warsaw against the Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia. In the 1970s and 1980s he collaborated with the Czech dissident, Jan Kavan, then living in London, smuggling literature and equipment to the democratic opposition in Czechoslovakia.

He has a degree in English from the University of London (1966), an M.Phil in Peace Studies (Bradford 1981) and a Ph.D in Peace Studies (Bradford 1994). From 1980 to 1987 he was coordinator of the Alternative Defence Commission, contributing to its two major publications, Defence Without the Bomb (Taylor and Francis, 1983) and The Politics of Alternative Defence (Paladin 1987). He has contributed articles and reviews to Peace News, New Society, the Guardian and other newspapers and journals. He is also the author of several books: The Blake Escape: How we Freed George Blake - and Why, co-author with Pat Pottle, Harrap 1989, Alternatives in European Security, co- editor with Paul Rogers, Dartmouth 1990; People Power: The Building of a New European Home, Hawthorn Press 1991, Civil Resistance,[10] and How to Defend Yourself in Court.[11] From 1988 to 1990 he was coordinator of the Bradford-based Social Defence Project, and later coordinated the Nonviolent Action Research Project, also based in Bradford, the proceedings of which were edited into a book Challenge to Nonviolence.[12] He remains an Honorary Visiting Research Fellow at the Department of Peace Studies, Bradford University. In 2005, he co-edited with April Carter and Howard Clark People Power and Protest since 1945: a bibliography on nonviolent action.[13]

For most of the life of the Committee for Conflict Transformation Support (1992–2009, previously Coordinating Committee for Conflict Resolution Training in Europe), Michael Randle was minutes secretary and also editor of its bulletin, ultimately titled CCTS Review.[14] He is a long-serving trustee of the Commonweal Collection at the JB Priestley Library, Bradford University.

In March 2003 Randle made an extended appearance on the television discussion programme After Dark, alongside Lord Hannay, Alice Nutter, Ruth Wedgwood, Ken O'Keefe and others.[15]

Personal life

He married his wife Anne in 1962; they have two grown sons, Sean and Gavin, and are now grandparents.

External links


  1. Patrick Pottle, Daily Telegraph, 4 October 2000
  2. Richard Norton-Taylor, Pat Pottle, The Guardian, 3 October 2000
  3. Nick Cohen, A jailbreak out of an Ealing comedy, New Statesman, 9 October 2000
  4. Michael Randle and Pat Pottle, The Blake Escape: How We Freed George Blake - and Why, ISBN 0-245-54781-9, 1989
  5. Illtyd Harrington, Forget the train robbers, this was the great escape, Camden New Journal, 29 May 2003
  6. Kevin O’Connor, Blake and Bourke and The End of Empires, ISBN 0-9535697-3-X, 2003
  7. Extradition (Irish Republic), Hansard, 30 July 1982
  8. Sean Bourke, The Springing of George Blake, ISBN 0-304-93590-5, 1970
  9. http://www.eco-action.org/dod/no10/blake.htm
  10. (Fontana 1994, out of print but now online at )
  11. Civil Liberties Trust, 1995
  12. University of Bradford Department of Peace Studies 1992, now online at
  13. (Housmans) now online with additional updates at
  14. Online archive at
  15. After Dark, BBC4 series, accessed 21 July 2014
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